Over 600 elementary school students from Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, and Fort St. James each released one-year-old juvenile Nechako white sturgeon into the Nechako River by Riverside Park on May 13.
The seventh annual Save-Our-Sturgeon presented by the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC and the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative was also attended by local and regional leaders, including Mayor Gerry Thiessen of Vanderhoof, Chief Stanley Thomas of Saik’uz First Nation, Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad, Prince George-Valemount MLA Shirley Bond, General Manager Gaby Poirier of Rio Tinto Alcan’s B.C. operations, and president Andrew Wilson from Freshwtaer Fisheries Society of BC.
Elementary school students first lined up to pick up a juvenile sturgeon, name it and hold it for a photo opportunity, and are then guided to the river for the release.
Saik’uz First Nation’s Chief Stanley Thomas, one of the speakers presented by Wayne Salewski of the Nechako White Sturgeon Recovery Initiative, told the audience that in the Carrier language, the word for sturgeon means “the grandmother of all.”
Attendees also learned about the Nechako white sturgeon through information displays, including activities that demonstrate the species’ rate of survival and a 30-lbs. adult chinook salmon replica at the salmonid enhancement program information booth hosted by Guy Scharf from Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
The released sturgeon were born and raised in Vanderhoof’s Nechako White Sturgeon Conservation Centre on Burrard Avenue, where larvae produced each spring are held over the winter to allow them to grow large enough to escape most predation risks before their release.